A Black Lives Matter peaceful protest is planned for the Belleville High School football game against Lincoln High School at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21.
The plan is for protesters to sit on the visitors (Lincoln) side of the field and chant during the game and then take to the field when the game is over to chant some more. The directions are to stay seated when the National Anthem is played.
The protest is called a “Power in Unity Rally” and participants were told there is to be no violence, disrespect, harassing, or profanity.
Some of the chants planned are, “No Justice No Peace” and “When Black Lives are under attack, we stand up; we fight back.”
Participants say their protest has nothing to do with what’s going on in the Belleville schools.
It all started when some students at Lincoln Consolidated Schools wanted to join the Black Lives Matter protests against “inequality demonstrated by the multiple deaths due to police brutality,” said Taylor Killich, a Lincoln High School student.
She said the volleyball team, of which she is a part, has been kneeling for weeks when the National Anthem is played. Taylor said the Lincoln Athletic Department had added a “freedom of speech, freedom of expression” line to its rules and so there was no problem.
At the football game against Pioneer on Oct. 14, half of the football team kneeled for the National Anthem and a woman wrote about it on Facebook, showed pictures and said nasty things, Taylor said.
Other parents started harassing the team over the kneeling, Taylor said.
Taylor said the cheerleading coach reportedly told cheerleaders that if they participated in any way in the Black Lives Matter protests, they would be off the team.
Lincoln Cheer Coach Christina Spurley, who has been coaching for ten years, said she has 21 girls on her team and some are being pressured to participate in the protest. She said some wanted to put Black Lives Matter on their bandanas and others were uncomfortable with that.
She said the girls are on one team and should wear one uniform and look alike and cheer as one team. She said if a person feels so strongly about being part of the protest, she can participate in that.
While football players have knelt for the National Anthem they are not allowed to wear anything else on their uniforms.
Spurley said, “I understand a big cause and wanting to be a part of it. But I think the students should go to a high school football game and have fun at a football game.” She pointed out for some of the seniors it will be their last football game experience.
Spurley said she has been getting threatening phone calls about what will happen at the game.
At the game some cheerleaders planned to wear Black Lives Matter headbands in protest, no matter the punishment, Taylor said.
On Oct. 19, multiple choir members held up their fists in protest against the National Anthem, Taylor said.
She said nationwide, athletes are kneeling and raising fists to protest inequality and the high schoolers wanted to protest peacefully, too.
Chairman of planning Friday’s protest is DaQuann Harrison, a Lincoln student.
He said they were protesting at BHS because it was the last football game of the year and they wanted to participate in the national movement.
DaQuann said they got 100 extra Black Lives Matter shirts ordered, but didn’t know if they’d get them in time for the protest. Everyone who didn’t have a Black Lives Matter shirt was told to wear all black that night.
He said organizers expected 200 protesters, with 70 of them Belleville students.
“It feels good to be protesting injustices,” DaQuann said.
He said because Belleville and Lincoln are rival teams, they often play tricks on each other on game night.
“This year, instead, we’ll be doing something positive,” he said.
On Thursday, when details of the protest came to light, Van Buren Public Schools Supt. Pete Kudlak met with Belleville Police to discuss the protest.
Supt. Kudlak talked with DaQuann and Supt. Kudlak told DaQuann the district had no problem with peaceful protests. DaQuann said the plan was for a peaceful demonstration.
Nakia Hawkins-Hudson, a BHS senior, is also a member of the organizing committee. She said she used to attend Lincoln schools and she is representing Belleville on the Black Lives Matter Committee.
Although there were some rumors that the protesters planned to disrupt the BHS Marching Band that was to perform on the field, DaQuann said there is no plan to interrupt the band.
On Thursday night, Supt. Kudlak sent out emails to BHS parents explaining what the students had planned for their protest and, “If you are planning to attend the game, we would appreciate you helping us to keep the environment safe by not engaging the protesters in any way.”